The hay you feed this winter is probably not the hay you baled this summer. Forage quality, particularly in large round bales or in bales stored uncovered and outside, can change substantially over time. That is why it is important to forage test your bales shortly before feeding the hay.

Forage testing is a relatively inexpensive procedure involving chemical analysis of hay crops for nutritional qualities such as protein, fiber, energy and mineral content. Having foreknowledge of the nutritional qualities of your hay will enable you to feed with a greater degree of precision than otherwise possible. This will allow you to accurately plan for winter hay needs, properly allocate forages of various qualities to different classes of livestock and identify needs for supplementation.

If you have already started feeding your winter hay supply, it's not too late to have it tested. The results of the test could save you hundreds of dollars in winter feeding bills. Most county extension offices conduct the tests or can help you find further information.